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18 Oct

Thoughts of a Septuagenarian

I recently read Phil Caputo’s THE LONGEST ROAD, the tale of a memorable and long road-trip undertaken by his wife and him to drive from Key West to as far as you can go on road in Alaska, which is Deadhorse, on the Beaufort Sea. Caputo turned 70 around the time of that trip and briefly mused on age in the story and it struck me as germane. I myself today turn 70, (which strikes me as both ludicrous and unbelievable) because this happens to be the lifespan allotted in the Bible. Psalm 90, Verse 10: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their labor and sorrow, for it is soon cut off and we fly away.” Eerie. Reading this is like getting an injection of some sort of nuke-juiced juju.

The Bible calls for an end, and ironically this appears to apply to us in that we will most likely not be able to come back to Deer Park next year and, because of this, we have put out feelers and the infamous “word,” to friends, as we seek  a new UP refuge for next May through October. Or, failing the Yoop, perhaps somewhere BTB on trout water. We’d love to spend five months on a trout stream and be able to experience its moods and changes, but at this point we are facing an open end for 2014, and shall land where fate dictates. So, change is in the wind, as it always is for life is change, as is age, and I’ve never felt so creative in my threescore and ten years. Lots of my writer colleagues maintain they have trouble getting stories to come to them. My problem is the opposite. I have more in my head than I can possibly ever write, and they are percolating all the time.

Historian-Novelist Bernard DeVoto wrote: “Exactly how any novel grows in a writer’s mind will always be, I think, beyond research. But certainly the process is in large part one of accretion, of feeling for the true thing in emotion and action, of testing and modifying and amplifying it, of fumbling through the false or the merely plausible to be true, or if you like, apparently true. Characters grow in the mind, not unlike embryos growing in the womb. Scenes for the expression of emotion, meaning, or significant event. The scenes grow and develop and proliferate. Additional meanings besides the originally intended ones are revealed in them. They form sequences and these come to be seen as necessary. There is rejection, substitution, adaption, adjustment. Content is being shaped into form; form is developing into content.”

This is as apt a description of the indescribable that I’ve ever run across.

Readers are often urging me to write faster (mostly because they are older, I think). But you cahn only write at the speed your creativity will allow you – like a built-in speed control or governor (prototype for a computer filter?). Just yesterday I finished the first final draft of MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, Lute Bapcat and Sergey Zakov’s second outing. I began the actual writing with 1,223 words on May 1, 2012 and have been imagining and writing the story pretty well ever since, finishing yesterday with a manuscript at 100,310 words, about average novel length.  MOUNTAINS began its life under the title of JABBERTOWN. The day before the finish, we were in Newberry, having lunch at Pickelman’s Pantry and I wrote the first line to a short story in one of the fly leafs of a biography of Edward Albee. I had no idea this had been brewing, but it popped out as we waited for breakfast and last night after dinner I finished the first rough draft of the story, which will come in around 2,500 words or so and has for the moment a working title of “First Day of the Last Day of the World.” This title only came to me as I wrote the first line. I often get ideas for titles, that may eventually become poems or short stories, or novels and I maintain a living list which I update every time I think of a new one. The titles alone may help me with something down the line, or not.

I maintain a living Limpy Lexicon as well, the latest entry in that, “Feeding the Indians,” meaning “going to a tribal casono.”

HARD GROUND came out just this past spring and I am seriously  working on another collection to be called EXTREME GROUND, all female characters in various first-responder jobs. As a writer with only brothers, I feel  compelled to create strong, fully developed female characters doing jobs that people my age have always associated with men for reasons we don’t need to jaw about here. I like strong tell-it-like-it- is, in-your-face women. So, we shall see.

Meanwhile I have another novel done. It’s called BROWN BALL and sometime this winter I will put it into play with my agent. This story stands alone,  that is, not part of any series, and is set in San Antonio Texas in the summer of 1956. I want to wait until after deer season to give it my full attention.

And I know the next Bapcat book will be set in 1918, in Russia with a group of American soldiers called the Polar Bears, many of whom (most?) were from Upper Michigan. No title for that story yet.  I’ll let the narrative and pre-writing mind-cooking phase give it to me. And the next Grady Service, Number 10 in his parade, has a working title of BUCKULAR DYSTROPHY. A story of the sorts of off-the-deep-end extremists for deer hunting type COs sometimes encounter. The story will be based on a couple of actual cases, one of which I was inside to observe. And so it goes. The stories are up in my head,  always cooking and growing and solidifying and fermenting, waiting for their turn to run through my wrist onto a piece of paper. And of course, I continue to write poems, mostly for the discipline they teach in economy of words, and imagery, and cadence and meter. I admire poets and what they do.

Finally I got word on Monday that GRAY’S SPORTING JOURNAL will publish one of my pieces in the March/April 2014 issue. The title of the story is Les Truites Rose. I sent my revisions to the editor this morning. Fun piece.

So much to write, so little time to do it all. One day my grave marker may say, RAN OUT OF TIME, NOT ALTITUDE, GAS OR STORIES.

Enough middle-of the-night meander-blathering.  Two days ago Lonnie got to watch an osprey and a bald eagle soaring together on autumn wind thermals. Change approaches  us once again and it is like going into a time machine without effective  destination controls and one day finding ourselves spilled out in a new place with new people and things to explore and think about. Damn fine birthday gift, if you ask me. Nothing is worse for a writer than to stand still and look back nodding contently while he awaits his next fart or belch, like a dumbass bobbledeyhead on the dashboard of a ‘65 Mustang. A writer is both pilot and navigator and the only place for our eyes is ahead, always ahead.  The two most worthless things in life? The runway behind you and the altitude above you.  Joseph Heywood, Septuagenarian.  I can see my mom smiling at that. This is going to take some getting used to. Over

17 Oct

Ending the Day

Dinner with Don Madorski at the Pine Stump Eatery. Full moon rising through the pines to the east. Good night all. Over.

 

Northern Goshawk,  near Lake Superior Beach, this afternoon.

Northern Goshawk, near Lake Superior Beach, this afternoon.

Full Moon in Luce Lace

Full Moon in Luce Lace

 

17 Oct

Just Waking Up

DAY 151, October 17, 2013 , DEER PARK — Hit the five-month mark yesterday, and last night, another middle-of-the-night writing session, and another draft short story, this one called “Gravy.”  No idea of length. It’s handwritten at this point, which is normal, amounting to a dozen yellow dog sheets. Second this week.  Jambe Longue and the mutt greeted the morning sun without me. I didn’t roll out of bed until 0930. NW winds for three days, now down to light westerly, there should be good agate hunting on the beach today and tonight we are having dinner tonight with our pal Don Madorski and his dog Jake at the Pine Stump Eatery.  Long-time resident of Lake Superior’s shore, Don is the former “Mayor of deer Park.” Our days here are closing fast, but the writing goes on unrelenting. A good thing. Another short story tonight, I hope. The first one two days ago began when I wrote the opening line in the flyleaf of a book I was reading at lunch in Newberry. This latest one began with a vivid dream in which these two characters were having an interesting conversation. it woke me up and I came out here and let if flow through my wrists, as a great writer used to put it. Now to fully wake up. It’s 40 outside, will prolly be chilly on the beach. Over.

I look out on the sparkling lake and think, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

I look out on the sparkling lake and think, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

How this morning began.

How this morning began.

16 Oct

Generation Pride

Not so many years ago I had a fine soccer player named Lori Visser. She was a star player, tough as nails and captained us. Now her daughter Emily Morin is a starting freshman inside fullback at Michigan Tech. Glad to see the line continue with such grace and aplomb

She even runs like her mom, Elbows up!

She even runs like her mom, Elbows up!

16 Oct

Manuscript.

Least Flycatcher, found dead on Tuesday. First one we've ever seen dead .or alive. We found it south of Newberry,

Least Flycatcher, found dead on Tuesday. First one we’ve ever seen dead .or alive. We found it south of Newberry,

I handed  the first full draft of MOUNTAINS OF THE MISGBEGOTTEN to Jambe Longue today for her reading pleasure.  Lute Bapcat’s second installment.  Huzzah!

Finito.Now to may agent and from her to my editor at Lyons.

Finito.Now to may agent and from her to my editor at Lyons.

15 Oct

On Craft and Creation

Playwright Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) on writing: “I will discover one day that I am thinking about a new play, which means that it’s been in my unconscious and I am informing  my conscious mind that I have been thinking about it. I’ll put it back again. I’ll forget about it. It will pop up a few weeks later and I will discover that I thought more about it. The characters appear. ‘Hello, here we are.’ Pirandello  time. In effect, they say Write us. I make experiments with my characters before I trust them in a play of mine. I will do a form of actor’s improvisation. I’ll take a long walk on the beach with the characters, who I plan to have in the play I haven’t written yet. I will put them in a situation that won’t be in the play, and I will improvise dialogue for them and see how well I know them.

“Gradually  the play takes shape – before a word  is written down. In contrast to those playwrights who are hopelessly didactic and plot everything out.” Albee makes no notes and there is no outline. In this head, there is the “playwright’s file cabinet,” in which he places things he has heard or seen.” He tells us, “I make the assumption that the play knocks on the conscious part of my brain, which is why it keeps coming into focus before I write it down.” When he senses that the work is ready, he begins to write in longhand (his handwriting is difficult to read – even for him). “When I start putting a play to paper, I have no idea what the first line is going to be. I have some idea of the destination, some flash of how it’s going to end, but I have no idea how I’m going to get from the beginning to the end. But then the reality of the situations and the characters take over.”

On the subject of titles, Albee once saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” scribbled on a mirror in a  Bar and he never forgot it, and when the play was written, this became the title. Sheer serendipity and to some extent luck, but writers, if they are good, are what Saul Bellow once called, “First-class noticers.” Cops and game wardens call it situational awareness, that is actually seeing and taking on board what you are looking at, hearing or smelling,.

I think I made this point in an earlier blog – that most of the writing and story formulation takes place over a long period of time in your mind before you put  pen to paper.  It’s nice to see similarities in how others do the work. Over.

14 Oct

Bright Beginnings

Bookended by sunrise.

Bookended by sunrise.

DAY 148, DEER PARK, October 14, 2013 – Jambe Longue is up taking sunrise photos and the dog is out cold on our bed. Ah morning in Paradise (the concept, not the town). Over.

Morning in Full Glory

Morning in Full Glory

Sunrise looking south and west.

Sunrise looking south and west.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pitcher of pitcher-taker between pitcher takes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sleeper.

 

13 Oct

You Know Halloween Must Be Approaching

If you find junk like this out in the woods.

Skeletons in the Woods

Skeletons in the Woods

13 Oct

Autumn Shroomers

 

Spent a bit this afternoon letting the mutt ruin and searching for shrooms out on Coast Guard Road. Working off descriptions from a friend, we found quite a haul of armillaria mellea, or honey mushrooms. Unfortunately we had them in a bag with some that were not honeys. And our friend’s book said they were not edible. Asked our friend, you eat these? “All my life. You have to boil them twice.” ‘fraid not. I dumped them all. But it was fun and pretty and the dog had  a ball on his two-hour all-out run. Photos follow. Over.

Sunday sunrise.

Sunday sunrise.

Reindeer lichen.

Reindeer lichen.

Bed of lichen

Bed of lichen

Coast Guard Road

Coast Guard Road

Two-tracks, everywhere you look!

Two-tracks, everywhere you look!

Morning light.

Morning light.

 

12 Oct

Maas En Mass

Pal Peter Maas was in Marlboro Mass and he spied a joint and went inside. Let him explain: “The place looked inviting.  Walked in, ordered a beer and a bowl of chowder.  Slapped my loose change on the table and waited for somebody to break out the cards. Nothing.  Had to watch the Bruins on the big-screen instead. 

In winter we convene with a crusty bunch of old newspaper types who call themselves Gazette Geezers, and we play a very bizarre and entertaining card game called 99. I think Peter’s notion was entirely correct in assuming he was entering a card-hall. But it is Mass and things there can be a little diff than the rest of the world. Over.

False Advertising.

False Advertising.

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